“The 3rd Punjab Women Judges’ Conference” by the Hon. Ayesha Malik

The 3rd Punjab Women Judges’ Conference was organised by the Punjab Judicial Academy (PJA) under the auspices of the Lahore High Court (LHC) from 29th November to 1st December 2019. The Conference was attended by over 271 women Judges from across Punjab. Chief Justice of Pakistan, Judges from the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Chief Justice Lahore High Court graced the occasion and shared invaluable comments with the participants.  

The three-day conference aimed at discussing the role of women judges in developing the gender perspective and the need to make courts more gender-sensitive. Speakers from various social and professional backgrounds deliberated upon the issues women and the vulnerable face in courts, the impact of gender stereotyping and the need to have a gender-neutral language. Additionally, rights of the transgender community, cybercrimes and its impact on women and problems faced by children in cases of child abuse and family disputes were discussed. The conference highlighted the relevance of the gender perspective in civil, criminal jurisdiction as well as in the digital space. 

Honorable Justice Ms. Ayesha A. Malik, Judge LHC, throughout the conference emphasized on the importance of the gender perspective in upholding the rule of law. Elaborating further, she stated that gender perspective is an all-inclusive concept which is not just for women, but for all judges, and that women judges have a role to play in bringing this perspective to the forefront. Moreover, she focused on the use of gender-neutral language, and providing a more gender-sensitive court environment for litigants especially women, children, transgenders and the differently abled. In order to achieve this goal, among other things, she advocated for creation of safe spaces within court premises and stressed that we ought to review our policies to make them more gender-responsive.

Commenting on the theme of the conference, Honorable Mr. Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Senior Puisne Judge Supreme Court of Pakistan (CJP designate) in his keynote address, stressed on the need to have true representation of women on all levels of the judiciary, an idea that was emphasized upon by other SC judges as well. He stated that women judges play a crucial role in the development and encouragement of women in eliminating gender bias, and that gender perspective is the cornerstone of a society that values equality. He applauded the efforts and work of the women judges and promised to work towards improving the court environment, making it more accessible and sensitive. 

Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa in his Keynote address on the final day appreciated women for coming out of the confines of their houses and becoming a regular part of the legal profession, and emphasized on the need for women to maintain their individuality while conducting the court proceedings. He focused on the real job of the judiciary i.e. to dispense justice and applauded the way the Gender-Based Violence courts facilitate this cause by providing a more sensitive environment. He put forth the initiative of the SC with Asian Development Bank to set up 116 GBV courts across districts of Pakistan. He advised the ‘Women of the Judiciary’ to interpret law in a manner that protects women and their interests. 

The conference was an overall success; it is hoped that the participating judges implement their learnings and take a step forward in making the gender perspective more inclusive.   

This blog post was prepared by Justice Ayesha Malik.   The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.